Air Force teaches, upholds higher standards

  • Published
  • By Col. (Dr.) Michael Bashford
  • 81st Surgical Operations Squadron commander
Commanders have the opportunity to become very acquainted with our Air Force legal system.

I find it interesting how incredibly differently we view things than the rest of society.
My oldest daughter started college this year. Although anticipated, it was with a certain amount of dread that I listened to her when she called late one night to tell me about the first time a group of freshman came home to the dorms drunk and disorderly. Although there certainly were many people aware of the situation, no student was picked up for underage drinking or for providing the alcohol.

Likewise, in college dorm rooms and libraries all around the country, students share notes about tests and the questions they remember from last semester and no one considers it a problem. The outcome for an Airman involved in test-compromise activities is likely to be quite different.

Last year, while investigating an episode of workplace misconduct, the offending employee expressed shock to me that anybody even cared what had happened. He reported that such behavior was open and routinely tolerated at his other job downtown. I believe him.

Why are we like this? What is the effect of caring so much about things the rest of society seemingly does not care about at all? Although there are many excellent answers to questions related to integrity, duty, discipline and getting the job done right, I would like to focus on something a little different.

It sure makes this a great place to work. Isn't it nice to be in an environment where these things matter? As Air Force members, we know the coworkers we rely on at work actually learned how to do their job, that they studied all the material and not just "what would be on the test," proved their ability to do the job and not try to game the system.

As a parent, if I send a child off to join the Air Force, I do it knowing the system will do everything it can to ensure my child will not spend the next few years getting drunk or stoned every weekend. When you go to work Monday morning, you don't have to wonder how many of your coworkers will not show up or be unfit to work when they do.

Another odd thing you can be prosecuted for in the Air Force is adultery. When a member deploys, he or she can trust the Air Force is doing everything it can to ensure supervisors and coworkers remaining behind are there to watch out for his or her family instead of taking the opportunity to start a romantic relationship.

We are not perfect, but isn't it nice to go to work knowing that your race or sex or religious beliefs will have little impact on your job or promotion opportunity? The likelihood someone will give you a hard time for any of these issues is also very, very small. If it does happen, you have recourse.

I believe this way of looking at "doing the right thing" sure makes for a great environment to live in and I think the rest of the world knows it too.

Although certainly not the only explanation, I think maybe this is one of the reasons for another oddity I have noticed; we make front-page news for things many don't care about.

Negative news is rarely as interesting when it involves regular, boring people. We are not regular, boring people. We all know it is not big news when the next-door neighbor has an affair; a senior politician having an affair is. Likewise, a bunch of college freshman getting drunk on a Friday night is not news; a group of young Airmen on the beach getting drunk is. No one would ever hear about a few people involved in sharing test answers in high school or college but if it occurs with Air Force officers it makes every national news outlet.

Think about that the next time you wonder why Air Force members are prosecuted for what they do or why the service may end up in the news. We do have a different life. It is a good life and it is partly due to the standards we insist on. This means we are on a pedestal and are admired by our fellow Americans. And we should be very glad for that.